Fire ravages Robious Middle School, arson suspected

CHESTERFIELD,VA (WWBT) – Detectives in Chesterfield are investigating a fire at Robious Middle School that someone may have started intentionally.

Firefighters had to force their way into the building and battle heavy smoke before putting the fire out.

Crews have been renovating this school all summer.

Now school officials are trying to figure out how much damage this fire might have done.

Arson could be to blame for the large fire that ripped through much of Robious Middle School early Sunday morning.

No one was injured during the fire but police say someone broke into the building.

Susan Coleman has been a teacher at Robious since 1979. She says she had to see the fire for herself.

"This is my home," she said.  "This is where I spend 8 hours a day of my life, 5 days a week so this means an awful lot to me that somebody has destroyed it."

Firefighters spent much of the day trying to clear out the smoke inside the building.

School officials are now trying to figure out how extensive the damage inside might be. The school is in the midst of a yearlong renovation project that would add office space and new science labs. Now much of that work could be undone.

"I was just really, really angry and mad that somebody would do that," Coleman said.  "Especially since we're trying to make the school better and enlarge it, better facilities for the students to use."

A passerby saw smoke coming out of the school a little after 7 o'clock this morning. The nearest fire station is only about a block away and that person ran over there to tell the fire department that the school was on fire.

"Everything fell into place for us as it should," David Bailey of Chesterfield Fire and EMS.  "We got that early notification."

School officials say it's too early to say what impact Sunday's fire might have on the upcoming school year.

"That's discouraging," Coleman said.  "(The teachers) had packed everything up and having a new year and having new facilities and now we don't know what will happen."

Police say their investigation is in its infancy and right now they're not ruling anything out. So far there are no suspects.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.